This comment, left in response to my post about rape and power, ruined my morning:
I don’t know what kind of women Marsalis targeted, though as the Duke non-rape case shows, there are good reason to be skeptical about women’s testismonies when low-class women are involved.
There’s so much going on with that comment that I don’t even really know where to begin. However, it’s certainly a nice insight into how the minds of rapists and rape apologists function. Rapists often target victims they perceive as vulnerable — whether those victims are physically vulnerable because they’re drunk or disabled or small, or because they’re part of a vulnerable social class. Sex workers are unlikely to be believed when they report rape, and so sex workers are often targeted. Elderly people and children are targeted for sexual abuse because they’re physically weaker. Rapists target women who appear to be drunk (or they get them drunk) because they realize that it puts their victim in a more vulnerable state, and because they realize that drunkenness will make her less credible later.
Rapists also target the socially vulnerable. During the Kobe Bryant rape case, I heard over and over, “Why would he rape her? He could have sex with anyone he wanted.” The underlying idea is that rapists rape out of uncontrollable sexual desire, and that men who are able to get sex elsewhere don’t need to rape; the corollary argument is that men only rape women they find sexually attractive.
That all ties in with the “low-class” argument. The idea behind it is that low-class women are undesirable, and since rape is a crime of desire, they’re virtually exempt from it. The other idea behind it is the long-standing tie between class and sexual availability. Terms like “trashy” and “classy” have thinly-veiled sexual elements behind them. Public presence has long been tied to sexual availability in women, and it’s always been lower-income women who occupied public space out of necessity, unlike their “classier” wealthier counterparts. The assumption is that low-class women are available for sexual gratification, and that they actively seek out sex — and if you’re a higher-class man, they’ll use their sexual wiles to trap you. They might cry rape. They might steal your semen and impregnate themselves. They might do all kinds of sneaky evil things that “low-class” women do. And so when a low-class woman reports a rape, we should be automatically skeptical, since women of color and po’ white trash are known liars and reckless sluts.
High-class women, on the other hand, aren’t as likely to lie about rape because they have less to gain. Especially if they’re raped by a “low-class” or brown man. That’s evidence in and of itself that they couldn’t possibly have consented, right?
Except, of course, when real life kicks in and even those lily-white high-class ladies have their reputations torn apart for having the audacity to get themselves raped.
In the meantime, the message is that “low-class” women need to suck it up and be grateful that any man would look at them in the first place.
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